This week I was given the opportunity to talk with Jude Charles, a former graduate of Nyack College, about what it means to be Socially Relevant. As an Outreach Pastor at Risen King Alliance Church, he has so much to say about this topic, not just how it applies inside the church, but also in the community as a whole. His life and ministry truly exemplify what it means to be socially relevant. Check out these response he gave to some of the questions I asked him.
1. What do you think it means to be socially relevant?
To me, being socially relevant means to not have a narrow view of the world around us because of Christianity. In my opinion, being socially relevant means to have a broad perspective on the needs of the world around us. God has specifically crafted us for a specific mission, which is to impact positively this world. When we realize that we are valuable and we can make a difference, then we are available to attain the proper training that we need in order to be efficient at what we do. In this respect, being socially relevant is ministry at its finest; an out of the box ministry concept. God allows us to have a view of ministry that transcends time, culture and traditions. I think that’s what Jesus was preaching about when he first introduced the world he lived in to the concept of the Kingdom of God. Jesus fed those who were hungry. He taught those who were simple. He taught those who thought they knew everything. He healed the sick physically and emotionally. To me, there’s only a difference in form between ministry behind a pulpit and mentoring a kid from the projects to become the first to graduate from high school or college in his family if not his whole block.
2. How did your time at Nyack prepare you to be socially relevant?
One major piece of knowledge that I have acquired from my time at Nyack College was to realize that there is a lot to do outside of the four walls of the church. I was born and raised inPort-au-Prince, Haiti. All that I’ve always been exposed to was the Haitian culture. I moved to the US when I was 21 years old and I started attending Nyack College a year later. I battled cultural shocks all throughout my freshman year. My lovely wife Joanne, who was my girlfriend at that time, helped me with assimilation. The vast racial and cultural diversity that I was exposed to abruptly pushed me to be who I am today. My first lesson on being socially relevant started the very first day I started living on campus. No formal classes or professors could teach me what I learned in such a real way. It was organic; it was a real life experience.
3. What are your responsibilities as Outreach Pastor?
I currently attend Risen King Alliance Church and the name of the Outreach ministry that I am leading there is called Without Walls Outreach Ministry. As Christ has called for us to live in community, outreach ministry is such a vital component. Without Walls meets people outside the four walls of the physical church. We bring love and the Gospel to many families in our communities throughout Rockland County, New York. My responsibilities include:
• Casting Vision for the Ministry.
• Attend community meetings with other clergy and community leaders.
• Liaison between Risen King Alliance Church and the communities surrounding us.
• Building relationships with local schools, other churches and organizations.
• Attend and support community events.
• Leading Risen King Alliance Church’s members to engage in community service.
• Identify the needs of our community and assist as best as we can.
• Pray for and with individuals in our community who don’t know Christ the savior.
4. How does being an Outreach Pastor require you to be socially relevant?
As an Outreach Pastor, I know that being socially relevant teaches me not to be judgmental of others who don’t look like me. Whether it is someone’s race, their educational background or their financial status, I learn that in the kingdom of God that none of these matters. On the field, I encounter all groups of people with many different needs. Being socially relevant allows me to understand what the real needs are and how to handle them.
5. What are some ways you suggest others can become socially relevant?
I would suggest to all leaders, not just Christian leaders who are reading this piece, to understand this very first step that leads towards being socially relevant. The first step is to be able to do retrospection within you. You can’t understand others if you don’t understand your own way of thinking. It may take some times but it is ok because the end result is priceless. During that retrospection, you will encounter many notions and ideologies you live by that are not necessarily healthy. They were probably passed on to you by family members, schools, life experiences, religious leaders, etc… It is also in that place where God can speak to you and mold you into his likeness. The world is filled with great people who don’t know how to live out of their greatness. Usually a sincere encounter with Christ gets them there. Those people need you to point to them to the way that leads to Jesus. If you’re captured in your own negative pre-conceived ideas about some of them, you will never get out there and fulfill your mission in life. Be kingdom minded!